Inhibition of WEE1 kinase and cell cycle checkpoint activation sensitizes head and neck cancers to natural killer cell therapies.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:Natural killer (NK) cells recognize and lyse target tumor cells in an MHC-unrestricted fashion and complement antigen- and MHC-restricted killing by T-lymphocytes. NK cells and T-lymphocytes mediate early killing of targets through a common granzyme B-dependent mechanism. Tumor cell resistance to granzyme B and how this alters NK cell killing is not clearly defined. METHODS:Tumor cell sensitivity to cultured murine KIL and human high affinity NK (haNK) cells in the presence or absence of AZD1775, a small molecule inhibitor of WEE1 kinase, was assessed via real time impedance analysis. Mechanisms of enhanced sensitivity to NK lysis were determined and in vivo validation via adoptive transfer of KIL cells into syngeneic mice was performed. RESULTS:Cultured murine KIL cells lyse murine oral cancer 2 (MOC2) cell targets more efficiently than freshly isolated peripheral murine NK cells. MOC2 sensitivity to granzyme B-dependent KIL cell lysis was enhanced by inhibition of WEE1 kinase, reversing G2/M cell cycle checkpoint activation and resulting in enhanced DNA damage and apoptosis. Treatment of MOC2 tumor-bearing wild-type C57BL/6 mice with AZD1775 and adoptively transferred KIL cells resulted in enhanced tumor growth control and survival over controls or either treatment alone. Validating these findings in human models, WEE1 kinase inhibition sensitized two human head and neck cancer cell lines to direct lysis by haNK cells. Further, WEE1 kinase inhibition sensitized these cell lines to antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity when combined with the anti-PD-L1 IgG1 mAb Avelumab. CONCLUSIONS:Tumor cell resistance to granzyme B-induced cell death can be reversed through inhibition of WEE1 kinase as AZD1775 sensitized both murine and human head and neck cancer cells to NK lysis. These data provide the pre-clinical rationale for the combination of small molecules that reverse cell cycle checkpoint activation and NK cellular therapies.
Project description:Natural killer (NK) cells are known to play a role in mediating innate immunity, in enhancing adaptive immune responses, and have been implicated in mediating anti-tumor responses via antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) by reactivity of CD16 with the Fc region of human IgG1 antibodies. The NK-92 cell line, derived from a lymphoma patient, has previously been well characterized and adoptive transfer of irradiated NK-92 cells has demonstrated safety and shown preliminary evidence of clinical benefit in cancer patients. The NK-92 cell line, devoid of CD16, has now been engineered to express the high affinity (ha) CD16 V158 FcγRIIIa receptor, as well as engineered to express IL-2; IL-2 has been shown to replenish the granular stock of NK cells, leading to enhanced perforin- and granzyme-mediated lysis of tumor cells. The studies reported here show high levels of granzyme in haNK cells, and demonstrate the effects of irradiation of haNK cells on multiple phenotypic markers, viability, IL-2 production, and lysis of a spectrum of human tumor cells. Studies also compare endogenous irradiated haNK lysis of tumor cells with that of irradiated haNK-mediated ADCC using cetuximab, trastuzumab and pertuzumab monoclonal antibodies. These studies thus provide the rationale for the potential use of irradiated haNK cells in adoptive transfer studies for a range of human tumor types. Moreover, since only approximately 10% of humans are homozygous for the high affinity V CD16 allele, these studies also provide the rationale for the use of irradiated haNK cells in combination with IgG1 anti-tumor monoclonal antibodies.
Project description:NK-92 cells, and their derivative, designated aNK, were obtained from a patient with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Prior clinical studies employing adoptively transferred irradiated aNK cells have provided evidence of clinical benefit and an acceptable safety profile. aNK cells have now been engineered to express IL-2 and the high affinity (ha) CD16 allele (designated haNK). Avelumab is a human IgG1 anti-PD-L1 monoclonal antibody, which has shown evidence of clinical activity in a range of human tumors. Prior in vitro studies have shown that avelumab has the ability to mediate antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) of human tumor cells when combined with NK cells. In the studies reported here, the ability of avelumab to enhance the lysis of a range of human carcinoma cells by irradiated haNK cells via the ADCC mechanism is demonstrated; this ADCC is shown to be inhibited by anti-CD16 blocking antibody and by concanamycin A, indicating the use of the granzyme/perforin pathway in tumor cell lysis. Studies also show that while NK cells have the ability to lyse aNK or haNK cells, the addition of NK cells to irradiated haNK cells does not inhibit haNK-mediated lysis of human tumor cells, with or without the addition of avelumab. Avelumab-mediated lysis of tumor cells by irradiated haNK cells is also shown to be similar to that of NK cells bearing the V/V Fc receptor high affinity allele. These studies thus provide the rationale for the clinical evaluation of the combined use of avelumab with that of irradiated adoptively transferred haNK cells.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Although immune checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized cancer treatment, clinical benefit with this class of agents has been limited to a subset of patients. Hence, more effective means to target tumor cells that express immune checkpoint molecules should be developed. For the first time, we report a novel natural killer (NK) cell line, programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) targeting high-affinity natural killer (t-haNK), which was derived from NK-92 and was engineered to express high-affinity CD16, endoplasmic reticulum-retained interleukin (IL)-2, and a PD-L1-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). We show that PD-L1 t-haNK cells also retained the expression of native NK receptors and carried a high content of granzyme and perforin granules. METHODS:NanoString, flow cytometry, and immunofluorescence analyses were performed to characterize the phenotype of irradiated PD-L1 t-haNK cells. In vitro PD-L1 t-haNK cell activity against cancer cell lines and human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) was determined via flow-based and 111In-release killing assays. The antitumor effect of PD-L1 t-haNK cells in vivo was investigated using MDA-MB-231, H460, and HTB1 xenograft models in NOD-scid IL2Rgammanull (NSG) mice. Additionally, the antitumor effect of PD-L1 t-haNK cells, in combination with anti-PD-1 and N-803, an IL-15 superagonist, was evaluated using mouse oral cancer 1 syngeneic model in C57BL/6 mice. RESULTS:We show that PD-L1 t-haNK cells expressed PD-L1-targeting CAR and CD16, retained the expression of native NK receptors, and carried a high content of granzyme and perforin granules. In vitro, we demonstrate the ability of irradiated PD-L1 t-haNK cells to lyse 20 of the 20 human cancer cell lines tested, including triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) and lung, urogenital, and gastric cancer cells. The cytotoxicity of PD-L1 t-haNK cells was correlated to the PD-L1 expression of the tumor targets and can be improved by pretreating the targets with interferon (IFN)-?. In vivo, irradiated PD-L1 t-haNK cells inhibited the growth of engrafted TNBC and lung and bladder tumors in NSG mice. The combination of PD-L1 t-haNK cells with N-803 and anti-PD-1 antibody resulted in superior tumor growth control of engrafted oral cavity squamous carcinoma tumors in C57BL/6 mice. In addition, when cocultured with human PBMCs, PD-L1 t-haNK cells preferentially lysed the myeloid-derived suppressor cell population but not other immune cell types. CONCLUSION:These studies demonstrate the antitumor efficacy of PD-L1 t-haNK cells and provide a rationale for the potential use of these cells in clinical studies.
Project description:OBJECTIVE Chordoma is a rare bone tumor derived from the notochord and is resistant to conventional therapies such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and targeting therapeutics. Expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in a large proportion of chordoma specimens indicates a potential target for therapeutic intervention. In this study the authors investigated the potential role of the anti-EGFR antibody cetuximab in immunotherapy for chordoma. METHODS Since cetuximab is a monoclonal antibody of the IgG1 isotype, it has the potential to mediate antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) employing natural killer (NK) cells as effectors. Polymorphisms in the CD16 allele expressed on NK cells have been shown to influence the degree of ADCC of tumor cells, with the high-affinity valine (V)/V allele being responsible for more lysis than the V/phenylalanine (F) or FF allele. Unfortunately, however, only approximately 10% of the population expresses the VV allele on NK cells. An NK cell line, NK-92, has now been engineered to endogenously express IL-2 and the high-affinity CD16 allele. These irradiated high-affinity (ha)NK cells were analyzed for lysis of chordoma cells with and without cetuximab, and the levels of lysis observed in ADCC were compared with those of NK cells from donors expressing the VV, VF, and FF alleles. RESULTS Here the authors demonstrate for the first time 1) that cetuximab in combination with NK cells can mediate ADCC of chordoma cells; 2) the influence of the NK CD16 polymorphism in cetuximab-mediated ADCC for chordoma cell lysis; 3) that engineered haNK cells-that is, cells transduced to express the CD16 V158 Fc?RIIIa receptor-bind cetuximab with similar affinity to normal NK cells expressing the high-affinity VV allele; and 4) that irradiated haNK cells induce ADCC with cetuximab in chordoma cells. CONCLUSIONS These studies provide rationale for the use of cetuximab in combination with irradiated haNK cells for therapy for chordoma.
Project description:Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is a common malignant diagnosed cancer with increasing incidence rate and few treatment options. As a specific small-molecule inhibitor of the Wee1 tyrosine kinase, AZD1775 has previously shown potent antitumor effect on multiple types of cancer in various preclinical studies and clinical trials. However, the expression of Wee1 and the role of AZD1775 in ESCC remain unclear. In the present study, we found that the expression of Wee1 was much higher in ESCC cell lines and clinical samples than that of the corresponding controls. In addition, we demonstrated that AZD1775 exhibited strong inhibitory effect against Wee1 kinase in both tested ESCC cells at nanomolar concentrations. Moreover, AZD1775 effectively suppressed ESCC cell growth and triggered apoptosis via the mitochondrial-dependent signaling pathway. AZD1775 also diminished cell migration and invasion as well as the expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9. Interestingly, knockdown of Wee1 displayed a similar inhibitory effect of AZD1775 on ESCC cells. In addition, there was a synergism between AZD1775 and 5-fluorouracil or cisplatin in inducing cell death. More importantly, the in vivo experiments also demonstrated that AZD1775 potently inhibited ESCC cell growth and metastasis. In summary, our data suggest that the Wee1 inhibitor AZD1775 may be a potential therapeutic agent and warrants a clinical trial for patients with ESCC, even those with metastasis.
Project description:AZD1775 targets the cell cycle checkpoint kinase Wee1 and potentiates genotoxic agent cytotoxicity through p53-dependent or -independent mechanisms. Here, we report that AZD1775 interacted synergistically with histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACIs, for example, Vorinostat), which interrupt the DNA damage response, to kill p53-wild type (wt) or -deficient as well as FLT3-ITD leukemia cells in association with pronounced Wee1 inhibition and diminished cdc2/Cdk1 Y15 phosphorylation. Similarly, Wee1 shRNA knockdown significantly sensitized cells to HDACIs. Although AZD1775 induced Chk1 activation, reflected by markedly increased Chk1 S296/S317/S345 phosphorylation leading to inhibitory T14 phosphorylation of cdc2/Cdk1, these compensatory responses were sharply abrogated by HDACIs. This was accompanied by premature mitotic entry, multiple mitotic abnormalities and accumulation of early S-phase cells displaying increased newly replicated DNA, culminating in robust DNA damage and apoptosis. The regimen was active against patient-derived acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) cells harboring either wt or mutant p53 and various next-generation sequencing-defined mutations. Primitive CD34(+)/CD123(+)/CD38(-) populations enriched for leukemia-initiating progenitors, but not normal CD34(+) hematopoietic cells, were highly susceptible to this regimen. Finally, combining AZD1775 with Vorinostat in AML murine xenografts significantly reduced tumor burden and prolonged animal survival. A strategy combining Wee1 with HDACI inhibition warrants further investigation in AML with poor prognostic genetic aberrations.
Project description:Inhibition of the WEE1 tyrosine kinase enhances anticancer chemotherapy efficacy. Accordingly, the WEE1 inhibitor AZD1775 (previously MK-1775) is currently under evaluation in clinical trials for cancer in combination with chemotherapy. AZD1775 has been reported to display high selectivity and is therefore used in many studies as a probe to interrogate WEE1 biology. However, AZD1775 also exhibits anticancer activity as a single agent although the underlying mechanism is not fully understood. Using a chemical proteomics approach, we here describe a proteome-wide survey of AZD1775 targets in lung cancer cells and identify several previously unknown targets in addition to WEE1. In particular, we observed polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) as a new target of AZD1775. Importantly, in vitro kinase assays showed PLK1 and WEE1 to be inhibited by AZD1775 with similar potency. Subsequent loss-of-function experiments using RNAi for WEE1 and PLK1 suggested that targeting PLK1 enhances the pro-apoptotic and antiproliferative effects observed with WEE1 knockdown. Combination of RNAi with AZD1775 treatment suggested WEE1 and PLK1 to be the most relevant targets for mediating AZD1775's anticancer effects. Furthermore, disruption of WEE1 by CRISPR-Cas9 sensitized H322 lung cancer cells to AZD1775 to a similar extent as the potent PLK1 inhibitor BI-2536 suggesting a complex crosstalk between PLK1 and WEE1. In summary, we show that AZD1775 is a potent dual WEE1 and PLK1 inhibitor, which limits its use as a specific molecular probe for WEE1. However, PLK1 inhibition makes important contributions to the single agent mechanism of action of AZD1775 and enhances its anticancer effects.
Project description:WEE1 kinase regulates the G2 /M cell-cycle checkpoint, a critical mechanism for DNA repair in cancer cells that can confer resistance to DNA-damaging agents. We previously reported a series of pyrazolopyrimidinones based on AZD1775, a known WEE1 inhibitor, as an initial investigation into the structural requirements for WEE1 inhibition. Our lead inhibitor demonstrated WEE1 inhibition in the same nanomolar range as AZD1775, and potentiated the effects of cisplatin in medulloblastoma cells, but had reduced single-agent cytotoxicity. These results prompted the development of a more comprehensive series of WEE1 inhibitors. Herein we report a series of pyrazolopyrimidinones and identify a more potent WEE1 inhibitor than AZD1775 and additional compounds that demonstrate that WEE1 inhibition can be achieved with reduced single-agent cytotoxicity. These studies support that WEE1 inhibition can be uncoupled from the potent cytotoxic effects observed with AZD1775, and this may have important ramifications in the clinical setting where WEE1 inhibitors are used as chemosensitizers for DNA-targeted chemotherapy.
Project description:WEE1 is a cell cycle and DNA damage response kinase that is emerging as a therapeutic target for cancer. AZD1775 is a small molecule inhibitor of WEE1, currently in early phase clinical trials as a single agent and in combination with more conventional anti-neoplastic agents. As resistance to kinase inhibitors is frequent, we sought to identify mechanisms of resistance to WEE1 inhibition in acute leukemia. We found that AZD1775 resistant cell lines are dependent upon increased HDAC activity for their survival, in part due to increased KDM5A activity. In addition, gene expression analyses demonstrate HDAC dependent increase in MYC expression and c-MYC activity in AZD1775 treated resistant cells. Overexpression of c-MYC confers resistance to AZD1775 in cell lines with low baseline expression. Pharmacologic inhibition of BRD4, and thereby c-MYC, partially abrogated resistance to AZD1775. Thus, acquired resistance to WEE1 inhibition may be reversed by HDAC or BRD4 inhibition in leukemia cells.
Project description:Based on the mechanisms by which Wee1 inhibitor and cisplatin played their own role, a promising strategy of Wee1 inhibitor combined with cisplatin was proposed, which was investigated in gastric cancer (GC). Either Wee1 inhibitor AZD1775 or cisplatin alone had a certain inhibitory effect on in vitro cell proliferation; however, the inhibitory effect was more significant when AZD1775 combined with cisplatin in vitro and in vivo. The underlying mechanisms unveiled that the increased DNA damage indicated by increased ?H2AX protein, as well as augmented cell apoptosis indicated by upregulated proapoptotic proteins, was responsible for the significant inhibitory effect of AZD1775 plus cisplatin. Moreover, compared to any single drug, in vitro cell migration and invasion abilities were further attenuated by AZD1775 combined with cisplatin. There were suggestive results that the potentiated cytotoxicity between AZD1775 and cisplatin deserved a deep exploration in the future.